Gendered technology, during the rise of radio

"Radio is for boys only. No girls allowed. Or at least that was the message from so many young men at the dawn of the medium." Matt Novak writes in PS Mag about the "sense of betrayal by many young men in the early 1920s that radio was no longer their exclusive domain," as technologically adept girls began "rushing in and getting their cooties all over everything." (HT: @supe)


  1. In our small, midwestern market, DJs were taught, even up to the late 70s (and possibly beyond) that no two female artists were to be played back-to-back. They were always, ALWAYS, to be broken up by male groups or male solo artists. Of course, it was okay to play as many male artists back-to-back as you wanted. Seemed a little odd.

  2. Had a boss when I worked at a television station who told me he never would hire a woman “because they were no fun.” We have to “keep the broads out of broadcasting.” This was in 1985, he was gone a year later. Not missed.

  3.  But the assertion

    “Radio is for boys only. No girls allowed. Or at least that was the message from so many young men at the dawn of the medium.”

    is not really supported in the article linked. Instead, Novak’s article has more support for the opposite — that at the dawn of radio, enthusiastic amateurs of both sexes designed, built, and operated radio sets, and this was reported upon by the press of the hobby.
    I am reminded of the blog post: — specifically point 3 — one should check that the sources cited actually back up the thing they are being used to back up. Does the lengthy excerpt from Butsch (really an excerpt by Butsch of a letter to “Radio News”) really support the idea that the letter was protesting feminization of radio? Does the surrounding material in Butsch support Novak’s point that “the predominantly male audience of Radio News magazine was scandalized by the feminization if its pages”? I’m not sure “scandaized” is really supported.

  4. First comment in the piece:

    ‘Hugo Gernsback was [one of?] the first science fiction editor, and he started by running SF pieces in his electronics magazines including Radio News. The fiction pieces being referred to could well be those, and the scarf-pin radio a futuristic novelty being described by the editor in one of his many futuristic predictions. If so, that letter is not a techie’s reaction against women entering his field but a lament that a publication that had been catering to his non-fiction needs as a radio amateur was moving mainstream.’

    Without having access to the issue myself, or the referenced issue, the claim that

    … if you canned those silly [fiction] stories and the articles on scarf-pin radio sets you would have room to admit some of the amateur stuff you were so glad to start with

    actually means

    Reference to fiction stories and scarf-pin radio sets was a thinly-veiled swipe at women, and as Butsch notes, “[the editor’s] retreat from from a purely technical format was seen as an especially treacherous betrayal of his own followers’ faith in masculine technological mastery and contribution to the world.”when the rest of the letter is talking about the lack of technical amateur radio.

    Seems the person was complaining about the bad SF and lack of technical articles.

    Makes me glad I didn’t write a letter of complaint when Linux Journal switched away from being a journal…then again, it was more of a journal when  Marjorie Richardson was the ME.

    And the claim that switching away from purely technical was a move against masculine
    technological mastery? Isn’t a switch away from pure technology, apparently to appeal to women, incredibly insulting?

    I’m not a total idiot; I know sexism is still alive and well in tech, as it was back then. But…

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